Upon introduction, you can't help but take note of Catherine Marion's gentle demeanor and kind nature – a woman so sweet and soft-spoken that you probably wouldn't guess that the owner of Jemily fine jewelry is also a seasoned corporate finance attorney. But it was her rigorous journey as a finance attorney that brought Catherine to the realization that she was meant to design the most precious of personal ornaments and start her own business. Jemily, which is named after Catherine's two daughters – Emily and Jennifer, is a New York based fine jewelry brand known for it's timeless pieces with intricate designs and touches of colorful stones.
Catherine's love for jewelry first developed during her adolescent years as she inherited her grandmother's jewelry collection and began to possess an appreciation for the craftsmanship of intricate designs and precious stones and metals. Catherine explains that she has never been loyal to one specific jewelry brand just that her love for the art of jewelry runs deep and has always held a special spot in her life. This spot was impactful, however, that it eventually lead to a drastic and courageous career change.
For Catherine, 2004 marked her eleventh year as a corporate finance attorney in New York City, eleven long years of sleepless nights, 18+ hour work days and missing out the day to day 'mommy duties' during her two daughters' childhood. Catherine found herself employing three nannies just to be able to take care of her children while she and her husband evolved in their careers. But it was at that time that the working mother decided that in addition to her already hectic life, that she would enroll in night classes at F.I.T. for jewelry design. So, every Friday and Saturday night, Catherine took what was left of her free time and attended her jewelry design classes at F.I.T.'s Chelsea campus, and that is when her love longtime love for jewelry finally came full circle. "It just felt right. I was doing what I was supposed to be doing." Says Catherine.
The following year, with two years left to go in her jewelry design program at F.I.T, Catherine decided to leave her full-time position in corporate finance to pursue what it was that she felt she should be doing – designing jewelry. Fast forward to 2012 and that is when her change of career paths finally came to fruition and she started Jemily.
Catherine Marion's Jemily is a completely self-funded business with a price point that ranges from $400 to $6,000 and according to the designer, her target market is a confident woman anywhere from 28 – 50 years old who can and chooses to purchase her own jewelry. With a brand specifically targeted at women and being a woman and independent business owner herself, Catherine does not take her responsibility to empowering women lightly.
For those who have struggled to zip up the back of a dress or clasp a necklace for you, Catherine is also thinking of you. With the goal of keeping her clients to be as independent as possible, Catherine keeps this in mind when she is designing her collections. "[Our goal] is to make user friendly jewelry, where you don't have to rely on anybody else to help with trying it on." To wit, all of Jemily's clasps are made so that the client can put it on without the help of a significant other. Nothing empowers women quite like granting them the independence to put on their own jewelry with ease.
Over the last five years, Jemily's classic, feminine designs have landed in over a dozen independently-owned stores nationwide while the sales and collections produced continue to grow. Ironically for the Chicago native, Chicago is the city where the brand experiences the highest volume of sales. Jemily is strictly wholesale and while Catherine designs the jewelry she employs two in-house sales associates to conduct the wholesale relationships and to complete their three-woman show.
Catherine produces around two collections a year and explains that intricate types of architecture and nature are her constant inspirations. On a personal level, Catherine says she prefers using natural, colored stones, which can be seen throughout her collections, despite them often being harder to sell. Regardless, when designing her collections, Catherine always aims to create alluring pieces that have thought and meaning behind them. "I feel it's my job to show things that nature made, [that] God made – to showcase these creations," explains the designer. Catherine fulfills these self assigned duties by using crystals, stones and diamonds from all over the earth to create her pieces. She gets her diamonds from Antwerp, Belgium and has them cut in Israel and makes it a priority to guarantee conflict-free diamonds.
Catherine's love for nature's finest jewels is shown not only in her designs, but through her passion for jewelry making. "I wish I could give it away," says Catherine. "If I broke even, I would be okay." But unfortunately, the cost of jewelry making calls for a price tag that is a bit more expensive than $0. Regardless, it is clear that receiving an income from her business is no comparison to the feeling of finally doing what she loves every single day.
When asked about the future of Jemily, Catherine explains that continuing to expand and create new lines is her number one priority. Catherine's selfless ways and ability to create beautiful, unique pieces for the most confident of women, especially in today's political climate, is most definitely empowering.
The Quick 10
1. What app do you most use?
Ways and Instagram.
2. Briefly describe your morning routine.
First shut alarm off, then head to yoga.
3. Name a business mogul you admire.
4. What product do you wish you had invented?
5. What is your spirit animal?
6. What is your life motto?
I aim to have a wake like my grandmother's, there were so many people that stopped by just to tell of all of the things that she did for them.
7. Name your favorite work day snack.
8. Every entrepreneur must be what to be successful?
9. What’s the most inspiring place you’ve traveled to?
10. Desert Island. Three things, go.
Wifi, Kindle, Purell.
In 2016, I finally found my voice. I always thought I had one, especially as a business owner and mother of two vocal toddlers, but I had been wrong.
For more than 30 years, I had been struggling with the fear of being my true self and speaking my truth. Then the repressed memories of my childhood sexual abuse unraveled before me while raising my 3-year-old daughter, and my life has not been the same since.
Believe it or not, I am happy about that.
The journey for a survivor like me to feel even slightly comfortable sharing these words, without fear of being shamed or looked down upon, is a long and often lonely one. For all of the people out there in the shadows who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I dedicate this to you. You might never come out to talk about it and that's okay, but I am going to do so here and I hope that in doing so, I will open people's eyes to the long-term effects of abuse. As a survivor who is now fully conscious of her abuse, I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, quite frankly, it may never go away.
It took me some time to accept that and I refuse to let it stop me from thriving in life; therefore, I strive to manage it (as do many others with PTSD) through various strategies I've learned and continue to learn through personal and group therapy. Over the years, various things have triggered my repressed memories and emotions of my abuse--from going to birthday parties and attending preschool tours to the Kavanaugh hearing and most recently, the"Leaving Neverland" documentary (I did not watch the latter, but read commentary about it).
These triggers often cause panic attacks. I was angry when I read Barbara Streisand's comments about the men who accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them, as detailed in the documentary. She was quoted as saying, "They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them." She later apologized for her comments. I was frustrated when one of the senators questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (during the Kavanaugh hearing) responded snidely that Dr. Ford was still able to get her Ph.D. after her alleged assault--as if to imply she must be lying because she gained success in life.We survivors are screaming to the world, "You just don't get it!" So let me explain: It takes a great amount of resilience and fortitude to walk out into society every day knowing that at any moment an image, a sound, a color, a smell, or a child crying could ignite fear in us that brings us back to that moment of abuse, causing a chemical reaction that results in a panic attack.
So yes, despite enduring and repressing those awful moments in my early life during which I didn't understand what was happening to me or why, decades later I did get married; I did become a parent; I did start a business that I continue to run today; and I am still learning to navigate this "new normal." These milestones do not erase the trauma that I experienced. Society needs to open their eyes and realize that any triumph after something as ghastly as childhood abuse should be celebrated, not looked upon as evidence that perhaps the trauma "never happened" or "wasn't that bad. "When a survivor is speaking out about what happened to them, they are asking the world to join them on their journey to heal. We need love, we need to feel safe and we need society to learn the signs of abuse and how to prevent it so that we can protect the 1 out of 10 children who are being abused by the age of 18. When I state this statistic at events or in large groups, I often have at least one person come up to me after and confide that they too are a survivor and have kept it a secret. My vehicle for speaking out was through the novella The Survivors Club, which is the inspiration behind a TV pilot that my co-creator and I are pitching as a supernatural, mind-bending TV series. Acknowledging my abuse has empowered me to speak up on behalf of innocent children who do not have a voice and the adult survivors who are silent.
Remembering has helped me further understand my young adult challenges,past risky relationships, anger issues, buried fears, and my anxieties. I am determined to thrive and not hide behind these negative things as they have molded me into the strong person I am today.Here is my advice to those who wonder how to best support survivors of sexual abuse:Ask how we need support: Many survivors have a tough exterior, which means the people around them assume they never need help--we tend to be the caregivers for our friends and families. Learning to be vulnerable was new for me, so I realized I needed a check-off list of what loved ones should ask me afterI had a panic attack.
The list had questions like: "Do you need a hug," "How are you feeling," "Do you need time alone."Be patient with our PTSD". Family and close ones tend to ask when will the PTSD go away. It isn't a cold or a disease that requires a finite amount of drugs or treatment. There's no pill to make it miraculously disappear, but therapy helps manage it and some therapies have been known to help it go away. Mental Health America has a wealth of information on PTSD that can help you and survivors understand it better. Have compassion: When I was with friends at a preschool tour to learn more about its summer camp, I almost fainted because I couldn't stop worrying about my kids being around new teenagers and staff that might watch them go the bathroom or put on their bathing suit. After the tour, my friends said,"Nubia, you don't have to put your kids in this camp. They will be happy doing other things this summer."
In that moment, I realized how lucky I was to have friends who understood what I was going through and supported me. They showed me love and compassion, which made me feel safe and not judged.